MONSAL DALE INSIDER'S GUIDE
Insider's guide to Monsal Dale, Monsal Trail, Monsal Head, Headstone Viaduct, Water-cum-Jolly-Dale and along Upperdale to Cressbrook Mill...enjoy!
Monsal Dale is one of the prettiest and most popular dales in Derbyshire and the Peak District.
Dominated by the famous Headstone viaduct (more commonly but wrongly referred to as the Monsal viaduct) over which once steamed trains bound for Manchester from Derby and vice versa, the dale is now free of hissing steam and 'clickety-clack'.
Nowadays, Monsal is more popular with walkers and families who enjoy the sights, sounds and wildlife of the beautiful river Wye as it meanders down to Bakewell before being consumed by the bigger river Derwent at their confluence at Rowsley.
Fishing the Wye is strictly private but can be arranged with Cressbrook & Litton Fly Fishers Club with day tickets available for this wonderful stretch of crystal-clear water.
By car from Monsal Head you can drop into the dale towards Cressbrook but there is very limited parking, narrow lanes and is not recommended at busier times and weekends.
On foot, from the car park at Monsal Head (or the public car park behind the hotel), simply drop into the dale either via the viaduct route or over the river, around and underneath the viaduct itself following the path (all signposted).
Once in the dale bottom, you have a choice of walking routes: a flat stroll beyond the dramatic weir as far as the A6 and back or a more challenging route that meanders by the river almost as far as the road but then veers sharply and steeply to the right up to Brushfield and back along a ridge running parallel high above the Wye before a rocky path descent to the viaduct and up to Monsal Head once more.
Another option is to join the viaduct and turn right all the way to the private apartments at impressive Cressbrook Mill (once a cotton mill). This popular route, formerly the railway track bed is, of course, completely flat and rather more suited to cycling. Consequently it can be very busy especially on weekend afternoons and bank holidays.
This is part of the Monsal Trail, a route of almost 9 miles from Bakewell to Chee Dale before Buxton. Cycle hire centres are located at popular Hassop Station Cafe, Hassop Road, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1NW (01629 815668) and at Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 9TE (01298 70838). Hassop Station also offers refreshments, meals, books and gifts 7 days a week.
Cycling on the Monsal Trail is great fun but to get a real taste of the Peak District make a short detour (signed) to the completely unspoiled villages of Great Longstone and Little Longstone. You'll find 3 great food pubs, pretty cottages, a tiny shop, a dairy for the freshest milk and more.
Possibly one of the most photographed scenes anywhere in England, the viewpoint from Monsal Head (Hotel, Stables Bar, car park and Hobbs cafe) has been greatly improved in 2015 by the pruning and removal of overgrown bushes and trees which had begun to obscure the view of the viaduct and dale enjoyed by countless tens of thousands of people over the decades.
The Stables Bar at Monsal Head (part of the Monsal Head Hotel) is open all day for food and drink 7 days a week.
Quieter places in the dale
If possible, in common with all of the Park's 'honey-pots', Monsal Head and Monsal Dale are best visited on quieter, midweek days. Mornings can be blissful, escaping the hordes and having the place all to yourselves for an hour or two's pottering by the water.
Don't miss the opportunity of visiting the stunning weir (cameras please!) and the flat acres of grass at its edge make for a lovely picnic spot to be enjoyed with all the family.
Keep an eye out for Dippers too - black and white birds that skim over the water and occasionally underneath it too! You can't miss them bobbing their heads whilst standing on little river rocks, looking for another mayfly to swallow!
If you're lucky you'll see herons, coots, moorhens, geese and swans all along this stretch.
It can get very busy at Monsal Head so another way of accessing Monsal Dale is via White Lodge car park on the A6 between Ashford-in-the-Water and Buxton (Map ref: SK 170706). This requires the crossing of the busy road but affords the luxury of a short walk to the beautiful weir and fewer crowds to contend with.
Beyond Cressbrook Mill is the delightful Water-cum-Jolly-Dale affording a flat 45 minute riverside walk, full of interest, beyond Litton Mill and finally to the Angler's Rest in Miller's Dale, a delightful stretch of the legs!
Walking in Monsal Dale
More serious walkers might consider this 10 mile circular Monsal route which starts and ends at the nearby village of Great Longstone. Another walk taking in the delights of the dale is this 7 mile Monsal hike which begins and ends at the public car park behind the hotel at Monsal Head.
Holidaying near Monsal Dale
To get the best out of what Monsal has to offer you should consider staying in the area for a few nights, hardly a chore! With a choice of holiday cottages, b&b and hotels there's no shortage of excellent accommodation close to Monsal Dale either. Book direct with the accommodation owners for the very best deals.
Last Updated: 14 May 2017